Sunday, October 22, 2006

Health care concerns

A story by Max Alexander in the November 2006 Reader's Digest
discusses this issue with respect to medical treatment and hospital bills.

In a system like what is proposed here, hospitals and medical providers would be required to send a notification to the preferred NCOA address, so that if treatment was obtained under false pretenses, the real person would find out.

There are HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) concerns. Sometimes an individual is unable to review records of treatment obtained under false pretenses, and medical providrs are reluctant to change them. A medical consumer can request an "accounting of disclosures."

There is a further discussion on World Privacy Forum,

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Consumer responsibilities

Consumers would have some responsibilities for this kind of system to work. A consumer who did not receive expected bills or bank statements for several days (by mail or email) or who could not access his or her accounts online, would be expected to check with the appropriate institution.

The system would need to provide the capability for a USPS Post Office to check a National Change of Address record in a secured manner. A customer who suspected some sort of tampering or error would need to be able to ask a cleared postal employee to check on the NCOA system with an internal USPS application, not open to public access on the Internet. A mainframe application might be preferred for this, as traditional IBM mainframe applications and databases (DB2) may be easier to secure.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

More possible components of such a due diligence system

While companies sell shredding machines and television stations (like NBC4 in Washington) have community shreds, I still maintain, steadfastly, that we shouldn’t have to waste our time on shredding unwelcome snail mail (let alone emails and telemarketing calls) simply because banks, retailers, auto dealers and even mortgage companies can’t verify who is applying for credit, or don’t tale the trouble to do their due diligence.

As I have suggested, it is not too much to ask of American business to set up a new system to take care of this problem, and I suppose that could employ me again, as a baby boomer retiree. I’ve looked around for some links today for companies and agencies that have the components of such a system.

Let’s start first with the United States Postal Service.

The heart of the USPS National Change of Address system is now called NCOALink (as it has since 2004). Here is the most important link describing the system:

The system consists of component parts, some of which can be used separately by businesses at various steps in automated mailing processes. For example, FastForward is discussed at this link:

However, a client verification system such as described here would probably have to talk to NCOALink as part of its major strategy. I worked on implementing an earlier version of this in 1998 in Minneapolis at ReliaStar (today, ING).

Another important component is address standardization with Code1. For example, some people put both a PO Box and street address on an address, but it is the address immediately above city, state, and zip that is used. Apartment numbers should be on the same like as the street address, and they must be included when present. The USPS has a system called CASS to guarantee carrier route bar codes on mailpieces, called CASS, link here.

The vendor that I worked with (in 1998) was Group1. The main link is The company has been acquired by Pitney Bowes but it has a major presence in Prince Georges County, MD near Washington DC. The visitor can get a general idea of how this kind of technology is going today by visiting their home page and visiting all the links on the right-hand side called “Business Solutions.” The Group1 service associated with MCOA is VeriMove, (Move Update) at this link:
Their Code-1 Suite is at this link.

There is a related product that oversees data quality called DataSight.
Associated with this is a data “merger-purge” process to eliminate redundancy. There are several products, such as this:

Grpup1 has a blog, , for example describing a related new USPS product OneCode:

Another major vendor is Harte-Hanks , which the visitor can explore.

One has the impression from all of this that a due diligence system for credit grantors could be built from various components like these, using various XML protocols to exchange data, and both IBM mainframe and client-server midtiers to process the verifications. A major systems development contractor like EDS, Perot, IBM, Unisys, Computer Sciences, etc. could manage the effort, and it very likely would be managed from the Washington DC area. Credit reporting companies (like Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) would be part of the loop, as would major software developers (especially Microsoft). But it can and should be done.